As reported on this blog this February, the EU members had agreed among themselves not to invite opponents of the Castro regime to diplomatic receptions at their embassies. The aim was to ‘normalize’ relations with Cuba after the arrest of 75 dissidents had led to vehement disagreement between Cuba and the European Union. Back then the EU was sharply criticized for this pretty lame behavior.
I read an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, unfortunately only available online to subscribers, which I’m not, that the German embassy tried a rather half-hearted approach to show some spine after all: On occasion of the 15th anniversary of German reunification on October 3rd, they had organized two receptions, an official one for Cuban officials up to Fidel Castro himself, and also the international diplomatic corps, and an unofficial one for private citizens, including several opponents of the regime. Quite predictably, not a single local bigwig showed up for the official reception.
According to the article, Castro has by now altogether lost interest in having good relations with the European Union anyway. His close relationship with Hugo Chavez has rescued the country from the increasing isolation it suffered after the demise of the Soviet Union. Considering the high price of oil, Chavez can well afford to be generous with Castro, while gaining some additional credibility with the international left by having him as a kind of political and ‘spiritual’ mentor. This unholy duo also is up to no good, and is trying to export communism to the rest of Latin America, as if were the 1960s all over again. More about that in some other posts.
While European embassies in Havana try to keep relations to the Cuban government as normal as possible, European government have shown their displeasure with increasing repression in Cuba in various ways. Since Venezuela is propping the country up, and thereby diminishes the European leverage towards Cuba, these reactions are mostly on the symbolic level, though. For example, the German Foreign Ministry has canceled a long-planned cultural agreement with Cuba, part of which would have been the establishment of a branch of the Goethe-Institut in Havana. The Ministry had also withdrawn its part of the financing for the Cuban book fair 2004 (no English-language link, sorry), even though German culture had been the main focus of this event. Funding for German publishing houses to attend the fair also was withdrawn. An unfortunate side-effect of this measure was that the only German publishing houses to participate in the fair were those approved, and whose attendance also was paid for, by ‘Cuba Si!’, an organization affiliated to the former East German communists, at the time called PDS, and now ‘Die Linke’ (left party). Cuba Si! seems to be suspiciously well-financed, and supports the Cuban regime by publishing pro-Castro propaganda. While ‘Die Linke’ insists that it allegedly is a former communist party, and now stands for ‘Democratic Socialism’, the people at ‘Cuba Si! are obviously unreformed communists in the totalitarian mold. You just have to look at the propaganda material for their ‘Boycott Bacardi’ campaign:
(To avoid confusion, there seems to be a ‘Cuba Si! organization in every Western country, as you will find out googling for the term — and no, I won’t link to them.)
While they obviosuly got a very friendly reception, some foreign publishing houses were barred from attending the fair, and independent, private libraries also face increased repression, including jail sentences for some people working there, in the last years.
The (rather leftwing) German magazine ‘Freitag’ I linked to above also notes that the increased repression in Cuba began the very moment when Fidel Castro got Hugo Chavez’s unconditional support. Some other articles I read suggest that both are intent on turning Latin America into a new socialist bloc. More on that in some other posts.